I regularly have clients approach me to seek advice about developing retirement property. Quite often I decline the business because I believe their notion of ‘retirement homes’ is outdated and consequently, will fail.
I find that developers tend to narrow their focus to the unique needs of elderly frail and infirm and to ignore the critical social/lifestyle needs of people as they age. The image below shows a generalised ideal map of third‑agers’ mobility and travel as described by research group of older people.
This article in The Architects Journal puts it succinctly; “housing for older people needs to be close to shops, services and cultural facilities, and connect well to the public realm. Good public transport links are essential, as are public toilets and benches for resting, to encourage walking. Access to shared, open, green spaces is good for mental health. What works for this age group works for all of us, and if we were to apply this to our cities it would help create stable, multigenerational communities, where older people could play a visible and active role in communal life”.
There is abundant research that suggests people nowadays prefer to age-in-place; remaining in familiar surroundings, familiar neighborhoods until their needs dictate otherwise.
In response to the 25 Effects of Ageing, Age-Friendly housing must provide a balance between an ageing person’s changing competencies and the environment in which they live their everyday life. ‘mobility’ is defined as the desire for connection with the external world in its myriad conditions – past, present and future – whether this be virtual, sensory or through physical movement in space and time. This helps combat isolation and promotes mental health.
We have started work on an app to help measure and monitor Age-Friendly residences here. If you have relevant skills and would like to collaborate in this development with us, please let me know.
Developers should be encouraged to build to a more modern specification of ageing because there is a shortage of well-designed, high-quality, appropriate and attractive properies in the right place for this market. According to research Sheffield University’s Designing for Wellbeing in Environments for Later Life (DWELL) research project. eight out of 10 older people say they would like to downsize, but only three out of 10 do so. In the UK, the majority of new-build apartments offer substantially reduced living space compared to older houses, and many would-be downsizers are put off by the idea of reducing their living space by 40-50 per cent.